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[–]washingtonpost[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

From reporter Alyssa Fowers:

People all over the world eat fried dough, and nobody does doughnuts like the United States. Doughnuts can be found year-round across this great nation in a huge array of flavors, shapes and styles.

But astute reader Susan Green suspects that America may be riven by a hidden doughnut divide. She observes that some parts of the country are saturated with a single doughnut brand, while others host a profusion of independent doughnut purveyors.

On National Doughnut Day, we wondered: Is Susan right? If so, can we map the nation’s deep-fried fault lines? And where is America’s true doughnut capital?

We kicked off our investigation with our friends at Yelp, who shared all 24,612 doughnut shop listings on the review site. By grouping stores with the same name and calculating the most common doughnut shop in groups of census tracts around the country, we found that our reader’s observation was right on: The United States is a federation of at least nine distinct doughnut nations.

Along the entire Eastern Seaboard, sprawling from Maine to Florida, we find Greater Dunkin’land. Here, Dunkin’ lives up to its billing as “America’s favorite coffee and baked goods chain.” (The Massachusetts-based behemoth, once known as Dunkin’ Donuts, dropped the Donuts in 2018 in a bid to transform itself “into the premier, beverage-led, on-the go-brand,” chief executive David Hoffmann told reporters at the time.)

The Dunkin’ hegemony falters as we head West, however. Regional chains such as Daylight Donuts and Shipley Do-Nuts flourish in the middle of the country. Outposts favoring Donut Palace emerge in the Southwest. And through the Rockies and on toward the Pacific, a preference for doughnut independence prevails as smaller, local brands with three or fewer locations dominate broad swaths of the landscape — broken by occasional islands ruled by Winchell’s & Yum Yum (both owned by Winchell’s Donut House) and Mochinut (which features a mash-up of American doughnuts and Japanese mochi).

Why do independent doughnut shops flourish out West while chains rule the East?

In Southern California and Texas, at least, credit goes to Cambodian immigrants. Multiple sources including doughnut documentarian Alice Gu contend that as many as 90 percent of independent doughnut stores in these areas are Cambodian-owned (although we could not independently verify that figure).

Cambodian immigrants came to the United States in the late 1970s as they fled the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. One of them, Ted Ngoy, discovered doughnuts during a late-night shift at a California gas station. A year later, he bought his first doughnut shop. By opening new stores and selling them to recent arrivals, Ngoy helped create a network of more than 1,500 Cambodian-owned doughnut stores across Southern California.

The doughnut business turned out to be ideal for immigrant families looking to establish an economic toehold in America: The shops require relatively little start-up capital. Bakers clock in as early as 3 a.m. — brutal hours that don’t appeal to many American workers. And if the entire family pitches in, even labor costs can be kept low.

Read more about doughnut shops across America here, and skip the paywall with email registration: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/06/02/donut-capital-america/?utm_campaign=wp_main&utm_medium=social&utm_source=reddit.com

Edit: An updated version of this map includes part of Northern California where Dunkin' is prominent.